Volkswagen Golf Estate (2017 - ) review
The Volkswagen Golf Estate may not enjoy the same level of sales success as its hatchback sibling, but that doesn’t make it any less of a beautifully built, excellent driving and immensely practical estate car.
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The Volkswagen Golf Estate remains a rare sight on UK roads: can you remember the last time you saw one? Of course, this may be down to the fact that its styling is so similar to its larger Passat stablemate, unless the two cars are sitting side by side, it can be difficult to tell them apart. So, the Golf Estate isn’t going to get you noticed, but that’s not to say it’s an unattractive car. It’s subtle, crisp lines are enhanced by colour-coded bumpers, the door mirrors have integrated indicators, there’s LED running lights, a tailgate with an integrated spoiler, and rakish roof rails. Step up to GT trim and you get an altogether meaner look, thanks to lowered suspension, larger alloy wheels, smoked rear privacy glass, and additional chrome trim.
The Golf’s interior fixtures and fittings are simply sensational. Everything you come into contact with, from the classy steering wheel, to the gear shifter’s tactility and the precision of all the switches, is almost impossible to fault. Together with loads of thoughtful touches – like the large, flex-free door pockets, substantial door handles, plus the acoustic tuning of the door latches to produce a solid reassuring thud – all ensure the Golf smacks of quality and scrupulous attention to detail.
The Golf Estate is also brilliant at the basics, with loads of seat and steering wheel adjustment, along with comfortable, supportive seats. The latest generation Golf is effectively a facelifted version of the car launched in 2013, and comes with a bigger touch-screen infotainment system that has increased feature content. It suffers slightly from the same issue as other touch-screen systems, namely that the lack of physical buttons makes it more difficult to change settings on the move, but otherwise it’s well designed and easy to navigate.
The luggage space behind the Golf Estate’s rear seats measures 605 litres, comprehensively beating a Ford Focus Estate. Fold the Golf’s rear seats down using the boot mounted levers and space increases to 1,620 litres, which is huge. That said, if you want the ultimate in space for even less money, the Skoda Octavia Estate is bigger again, with a 1,740-litre boot. The Golf’s loading bay is a great shape thanks to flat sides, with no wheel-arch intrusion, so you can use every inch of space. There’s also a low and very wide loading lip, making it easy to slide longer, heavier items in and out. A folding cargo floorboard can be installed at different heights, and there’s space to store the retractable parcel shelf when it’s not in use.
Ride and handling
Depending on which version of the Golf Estate you choose, you get different suspension setups. Less powerful versions have a fairly basic rear suspension, slightly more powerful versions have a more sophisticated setup at the rear, while the sporty versions get various arrangements that are lowered and stiffened to varying degrees. The interesting thing is, you can’t really go wrong with any of them, as even the most basic gives you a superbly comfortable and quiet ride. The sportiest versions are very comfortable when compared with their hot hatch rivals, but they also deliver bigtime on the thrills. Throw in steering that’s responsive, consistent and accurate, plus control weights that are perfectly finessed, and you’ll find that driving your Golf, whatever flavour it is, is an absolute dream.
There’s plenty of engine choice in the Golf Estate range. The most affordable of these is the diminutive 1.0-litre petrol engine. It’s not particularly quick, but it’s a lot perkier than you might expect, and with plenty of flexibility thrown in, it makes it a very easy car to live with.
Further up the petrol range are turbocharged 1.4- and 1.5-litre engines, both of which are quick and wonderfully smooth. Of all the powertrains on offer, the latest 1.5-litre petrol is probably the pick of the range. It is prone to the odd stumble as you come on and off the throttle at low revs – no doubt a by-product of limiting emissions – but in truth, it’s unlikely anyone will take issue with this. The rest of the time, the engine is creamy smooth, with a strong lust for revs and an impressively linear power delivery right up to the red line.
Diesel choices start with a 1.6-litre unit, which is very flexible if not all that quick, and it could be quieter and smoother, too. The 2.0-litre diesels address these issues, are much more flexible, and throw in a fair bit of extra pace.
The Golf Estate sits at the pricier end of the spectrum compared with most rivals, but thanks to its classy cabin and great driving characteristics, it feels like it’s worth every penny. All the engines are competitive when it comes to fuel economy and CO2 emissions. For example, the 83bhp petrol engine has emissions of 109g/km (meaning very keen tax rates), and it also delivers official fuel economy of 58.9mpg. If fuel consumption is your prime motivator, then go for the lower powered 1.6 diesel and you can add another 10mpg to the petrol car’s figures.
Volkswagen has managed to carve itself a strong reputation for reliability, but this isn’t necessarily reflected in the various surveys we’ve seen. Indeed, the brand is fairly entrenched in the bottom half of the manufacturer standings on Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, while as an individual model, the Golf’s score is – historically at least – pretty disappointing. The three-year/60,000-mile warranty is about par for the course, but not especially generous.
The Golf scored a full five-star crash-test rating from Euro NCAP. All versions get front, side, curtain and knee airbags, plus Isofix points for two child car seats in the back. There’s also a system that locks the brakes on during a crash to prevent further impact. A pre-crash system – which in the event of an imminent collision, will close windows and the sunroof to ensure the airbags can work most effectively – is also included, as is pedestrian monitoring, complete with low-speed autonomous emergency braking. There’s also traffic jam assist as an option. Although the driver must still keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times, the system enables the car to steer around obstacles, accelerate, and brake automatically.
The Golf Estate is offered in plenty of varieties. Entry-level S cars come with a decent amount of kit, including remote locking, air-conditioning, electric front windows, and a touch-screen stereo that brings together Bluetooth, DAB, and eight speakers. SE Nav trim is well worth the upgrade, though, because it brings alloys, automatic lights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors, heated front seats, radar cruise control, sat-nav, and a WiFi hotspot in the car.
Normally, recommending a Golf to anyone is a bit of a no brainer, but there are a couple of caveats you need to be aware of if you’re think of buying the Estate version. First and foremost, the Estate is more expensive to buy than the equivalent hatchback, and the double whammy arrives when you come to sell it on, as the residual values aren’t as strong as the hatchbacks. That said, if you haggle hard in the first place, you should get a decent discount, which will help take the sting out of the depreciation. Once bought, you’ll struggle to understand why your purchase is so undervalued, because the Golf Estate is an absolute gem to drive. It’s spacious, comfortable, quiet, beautifully built and is available with a fine choice of engines.